What's in the box?! Opening a safe with a little intelligence and a little brute force.
UPDATE: SUCCESS! We managed to open the safe in under an hour. Believe me, we’re as shocked as anyone. We’re now going to tabulate the winners, and work on our full write-up of how we did what we did. Thanks for joining us!
I have been infatuated with locks and mechanisms from a very early age. For my 7th birthday, my grandparents gave me a box of locks and keys; I promptly drove my parents insane as I ‘locked’ things around the house. Later, I signed up for all sorts of mail order ‘Train to be a Locksmith’ publications in an attempt to learn what was then the taboo black art of lockpicking.
Fast forward a few dozen years, and lock picking tools and how-to videos are cheap and prevalent. I have picked my way through many lock types and enjoyed teaching friends the meaning behind ‘locks keep honest people honest’ (household locks are surprisingly easy to pick, they just keep out honest people). In a similar vein, I have wanted to learn how to crack safes like they do in the movies. Yes, yes, we know it’s fake. But for every bad Hollywood scenario there is usually a grain of legitimacy buried in there somewhere. Safe cracking is a profession that’s been around since safes were invented. I wanted to know how much work and how viable safe cracking could be.
My wife is amazing; for Christmas this year, she gave me a fire safe she purchased off of Craigslist. It was super cheap because the seller didn’t have the combination. Best present ever.
Step 1) Get a safe that hasn’t been opened.
Step 2) Deploy robot army.
My safe is the very regular home-brand that is not particularly advanced but secure enough to deter crimes of convenience. If you know anything about ‘picking’ safes, you do it by feel. Manufacturers know this, so this safe has a ratchet built into the dial that fairly effectively thwarts the ability to listen or feel with a few additional safety features built-in as well. We’ll cover in detail how we built the safe cracking robot and all the lessons we’ve learned shortly after the safe is cracked. Now, let’s talk contest…
We’re going to live stream the cracking of our safe starting at 10AM MDT on Wednesday, March 29th. It’s going to be a cross between watching a cliff hanger and paint drying. We’re only about 60% sure we’ll get the safe open. Who knows how long it will take? Comment on this post with your guess of how much time you believe it will take us to open the safe in the form hh:mm:ss. The closest guess wins a $100 gift cert to SparkFun. Additionally, you are encouraged to guess the combination in the format AA/BB/CC. The closest combination guess will also win $100. Price-Is-Right rules apply: closest without going over. We’ll use your time and combination guesses to break any ties if they arise. Comments and entries close at 9:59AM Wednesday before the robot powers up.
Let me be clear, the robot theoretically works, but we have not yet opened the safe. We’re pretty sure there’s nothing in the safe. We’ve moved it a few times. Nothing rattles around, but who knows? Maybe there’s a bar of gold inside! Or a ham sandwich. We don’t know, but we’re going to find out.